Supervisors re-examine how they are elected

Carson City supervisors will be asked again today to examine how they are elected.

The 11-member Charter Review Committee meets every two years to study the city's charter and recommend changes to the rules by which the city operates.

Most of the changes committee members are recommending to supervisors this year are housekeeping items.

However, one issue has a history and refuses to go away, rearing its head during the 1991 Legislature and again in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1998.

The committee is taking a different approach to the issue this time. Rather than asking supervisors to consider being elected in a manner other than citywide primary and general elections, the committee is proposing the charter be changed to allow supervisors to change election procedures by ordinance.

Changes to the city's charter must win the approval of the state Legislature, in addition to city supervisors.

In the past, the committee suggested that supervisors be nominated for election by their wards for primary elections. Then the top primary winners from the wards would be elected citywide in general elections.

The question went to voters in 1992 and tied with 8,504 votes. A move to put it on the ballot in 1994 failed on a 2-2 supervisors vote. In 1996 supervisors unanimously opted not to put the question on the ballot, and in 1998 they rejected the idea.

Committee chairwoman Shelley Aldean said the committee this time wants to give supervisors latitude to change the election process after the 2000 Census is completed.

The census will identify minority pockets of residents in the city. Aldean said there is concern that minorities are under-represented on city boards.

If the census does determine that a specific ward seems under-represented, the supervisors would have to wait until the 2003 Legislature to change election procedures.

"We have the best possible scenario," she said. "The supervisors can react when necessary without having to wait."

Proponents of the idea also have argued that uncontested elections don't serve the city well. Also, elections would be cheaper if voting were limited to wards in the primary.

"That's certainly an issue," Supervisor Robin Williamson said. "The biggest flaw is that (running) is expensive and it's going to get more expensive. That discourages people from filing.

"I did everything low key, and it still cost $20,000."

Williamson, who was elected in 1998, said decreasing the expense at least during the primary elections would encourage more people to run.

Williamson supported the voting change in 1998. However, supervisors Pete Livermore and Kay Bennett argue that the current system works.

Bennett said the voting system creates a "level playing field for everybody."

"I don't think the process is any more or less exclusive," she said. "It's open, and it's fair. It isn't the money that gets a person elected. It's the quality and the hard work and the diligence of the person willing to run.

"The system isn't broken," she added. "Because the city is geographically contained, we tend to be involved in the issues not only in our wards, but across the city as a whole. Even as we are elected, we deal with an issue at any particular part of the town. We are elected to serve the whole town."

Livermore is concerned that the change would eliminate a primary win for candidates.

"I haven't been approached by anyone saying this is an important issue," he said. "I guess I don't think (the system) is broken yet. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The charter review committee is also recommending that elected officials' service on city boards and commissions end with their terms. Also, the committee is recommending only Carson City residents be allowed to sit on city advisory boards.

Ironically, Steve Moore, a 35-year Carson City resident who recently moved to Douglas County, is the only applicant applying for a position as a general contractor on the city's Board of Appeals. Mayor Ray Masayko said it would be interesting to see what happened in the case today because of the charter committee's recommendations.


What: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

When: Today, 8:30 a.m.

Where: The Community Center's Sierra Room, 851 E. William St.


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